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Active vs Passive Adapters

Active vs Passive Video Card Adapters

It is difficult to tell just by looking at passive vs active video adapters. You will know right away by the price. A passive adapter can cost as little as $12, but a quality ACTIVE video adapter on the other hand will cost about $30.

What is the difference in Active vs Passive adapters

 Mini DisplayPort to DVI AdaptersA passive adapter is the most basic type of adapter that can purchased. A passive DisplayPort adapter allows the GPU, (graphic processing unit) to communicate with a “language” that can be understood by the attached monitor.

For example, you could use a passive adapter to connect a DVI monitor to a video card with a DisplayPort connection. This will essentially cause that DisplayPort output to communicate with the “language” of DVI.

Think of a passive adapter as downgrading your video signal,  since you are adapting down. For instance, let’s say your video card has DisplayPort but your monitors only have DVI connections. You would use a DisplayPort to DVI  adapter like the one shown here.

Why Do I Need Video Adapters

Video adapters bridge the connection between your computer’s video card, and your monitor connection.  You can adapter to or from DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI and even older VGA. However with passive adapters, you cannot leverage the higher resolution capabilities of DisplayPort or HDMI like at active adapter can.

Why Active Adapters are Better

In contrast, ACTIVE adapters will actively translate the video coming from your video card out to the monitor. What this means is with an active adapter, the monitor sort of gets ‘faked’ into thinking it has a DisplayPort connection.

Will an Active Adapter Make my Monitor Resolution Higher?

No. The  limit or your monitor and cable used will determine that. For example, the max resolution on VGA is 2048 x 1536. The max resolution on DVI is 1920 x 1200 when connected with a SINGLE link cable, and 2560 x 1600 when connecting with a DUAL link cable. See more on this topic below.

Why DisplayPort is the Best

DisplayPort is the best type of video connection you can use. It allows you to take advantage of 4k, 5k and higher resolutions as well as AMD Eyefinity technology.

For more info see:

HDMI vs DVI | Monitor Connections | DVI-I vs DVI-D | What are DisplayPorts

In Summary

  • Use all the same exact make, model monitors if you can.
  • At the very least use monitors in even PAIRS as described above.
  • If you are using a mix of make / model monitors, you will need to buy ACTIVE video adapters


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